paradigm shift

7 Steps to Successfully Shift Paradigms

A lesson from The Five Monkeys Experiment

A paradigm shift is not an easy thing to do, but is possible and well worth it. Most of us if not all are told or somehow taught that we must accept ourselves and others. Virtues and defects included, but there is a misconception of what defects are.

When things get rough in any human relationship, we’ll argue and even fight fueling our desire to be right and “win”, by pointing out the other person’s “defects”. We tag as defects everything that we dislike from them and we use those “defects” as our arsenal to win the war no matter the consequences.

How much are you willing to change/fix?

Defects vs Bad Habits

Let’s clear up this misconception and work out our differences.

What are Defects?

Defects are congenital disorders, medical conditions present at birth (Biology & Medicine definition used for this post’s purpose).

What are Bad Habits?

Bad habits are negative behavior or patterns, paradigms.

What are Paradigms?

Paradigms are learned behaviors that in most cases we haven’t willingly acquired. But have been transferred to us from generation to generation.

Different types of paradigms affect different areas of our lives. Some are personal, family related, social. We also have paradigms about our bodies, mind, finances, love, spirituality.

For example:

  • Walking away from conflict instead of facing it.
  • “Exploding” during an argument or heated discussion.
  • Blocking or un-friending people on social media because we disagree with them.

These are just some examples of negative “mental programs”. That most of us have incorporated and transformed into bad habits through unconscious repetition.

How are Paradigms Born?

As mentioned, they are created through unconscious repetition. “The Five Monkeys Experiment“, a modern-day fable inspired by Stephenson (1966)Cultural Acquisition of a Specific Learned Response Among Rhesus Monkeys is a pretty accurate illustration of the birth of a paradigm .

The Five Monkeys Experiment

A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage, and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on top.
Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water.
After a while, every time a monkey would start up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up. After a time, no monkey would dare try climbing the ladder, no matter how great the temptation.

The scientists then decided to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was start to climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up.

After several beatings, the new monkey learned never to go up the ladder, even though there was no evident reason not to, aside from the beatings.

The second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated. The fourth monkey was changed, resulting in the same, before the fifth was finally replaced as well.

What was left was a group of five monkeys that – without ever having received a cold shower – continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they beat up on all those who attempted to climb the ladder, their most likely answer would be “I don’t know. It’s just how things are done around here.”

The Lesson:

“I don’t know. It’s just how things are done around here…”


Have you ever heard the sayings “Like father like son” or “Like mother like daughter”? or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”?

These sayings reinforce paradigms.

Can People Change?

Yes, people can change (shift paradigms) if they are willing to.

But before we can change, we must acknowledge said behavior and be willing to change it in order for us to evolve and become the best version of ourselves.

We also need to understand the following:

  • These “mental programs” were created by the people that we’ve lived with since the very moment we were born. Our parents, family, friends, teachers, etc.
  • Consciously or unconsciously, we gave them authority and validated them as sure and true.
  • There is a genetic and a social conditioning.
  • Paradigms inhabit our subconscious minds and are responsible for shaping our reality.
  • Paradigms as the habits they are, can be modified and changed however we please.

People do not resist change when they have a choice, people resist being changed. – Michael Basch

 7 Steps to Successfully Shift Paradigms (changing for the better)

The following are personally proven steps that you can also take if you want to modify a bad habit or negative behavior. Follow them and you will have great success stories to talk about.

  1. Examine yourself. Look for negative behaviors within yourself.
  2. Be humble. Accept when someone points a bad habit or negative behavior in you.
  3. Take note. Keep a journal of these mental programs.
  4. Meditate. Think about where have you seen those behaviors in the people you grew up with.
  5. Look for the root.  As paradigms are transferred from generation to generation, there is a root that has to be cut out before the change can begin.
  6. Seek help. While some behaviors may be easy to modify on your own, others may require professional help.
  7. Be patient. Remember that changing a habit takes time and effort, do not give in, because the rewards are worth the trouble.

If this was helpful, please comment and share.

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